Why We’re Marching DC While on a Startup Budget
Imagine Lebron James stepping onto the court with 1950s Chuck Taylors on his feet. It sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what women today do every day: We are stepping into the future wearing a 1930s bra—built around a 3¢ piece of steel (the underwire) that works against our anatomy, not with it. Evelyn & Bobbie has made it our mission to change that.
When I began concepting the Everyday Bustier, I worked long and hard to uncover the reasons why the conventional underwire bra has stuck around for so long. As it turns out, there are specific social-historical reasons why the underwire bra has survived with virtually zero innovation, and those reasons are much more subtle and sneaky than you might expect. (I call it the inertia of bad ideas.)
The bra industry is a massive multibillion-dollar industry that has continued to make impressive profits by focusing on marketing instead of product: Selling the idea that somewhere inside every woman there’s a sexy “angel” just waiting to get out. Imposing the expectation that under our clothes, we are all seduction and play. Selling the idea that we should suffer daily discomfort in the name of beauty. Implying in indirect ways that ‘if you don’t have a bra that works, it’s probably because there’s something wrong with your body.’
First, very few women I know list their daily sexiness as the most important job that their bra should do. Next, I’ve heard too many women say, “I can’t find a bra that fits because I have a long torso.” Or a short torso. Or wide shoulders. Or narrow shoulders. Or wide-set boobs. Or banana boobs. Or “no boobs.” The bottom line is most of us don’t look like Victoria’s Secret angels. Our bodies are so different from person to person. We come in so many shapes and sizes. That is the way we are born and that is the way we grow. Each one of us unique in all the world.
You have probably heard the statistic that: “70–80% of women wear the wrong bra size.” That phrasing itself is worth examination. It drives me nuts. It sounds like a more scientific way of saying “stupid women, can’t even buy a bra.” I like to turn that around and say, “the vast majority of bra companies fail to provide adequate fit and sizing for their customers.” It’s bras and the sizing system that are the problem, not you.
Furthermore, most of us have aspirations much bigger than having a perfect body: Starting a business, managing our finances, sharing our creativity with the world, pushing through the glass ceiling, taking care of families and building communities.
Whether you are in the classroom, the boardroom, or the bedroom, the jobs we need our bra to do are simple and straightforward: comfort, support, beauty. So why are most of us wearing a bra that we can’t wait to tear off by midday? Why are we being forced to choose between a beautiful bra or a functional bra? We can solve for both!
When I founded this company and began this journey to a better bra, I could not have anticipated how much broader and deeper this conversation would go. This is about much more than a bra; this is about the evolving aspirations of women. It’s about our bodies, our minds and our spirits. It’s about what we women (and anyone who wears a bra) talk about and what we don’t talk about.
By the last statistic I saw, less than 5% of Fortune 500 execs are female, even though 80% of consumer decisions are made by women. That means many of the decisions being made about women’s products are being made by people that can’t directly empathize with our needs and experiences. Waiting for women to rise to the top of executive management won't happen fast enough to provide the innovation we need today.
Last week, I met a guy who works for a bra company. To understand his job better, he glued prosthetic breast to his chest and ran for two miles. That is exactly the kind of boldness that we need to expect. (P.S. His biggest learning? “Shave your chest before adhering prostheses.” Ha!)
I got tired of waiting for a better bra and complaining about my limited options. I couldn’t find my unicorn bra, so I set out to make it. I never would have been able to do it if my Aunt Bobbie hadn’t taught me to sew as a girl. I couldn’t have done it without the loving support of literally hundreds of women. When we come together to support each other, progress happens. In small and big ways.
So what does this have to do with the Women’s March in DC?
Beyond providing better bras, we are here to support women talking to women, examining the opportunities where our lives can be improved, and taking action to solve problems for ourselves and for others. Women solving problems for women. People solving problems for people. Examining the circumstances, and taking action for change. The world today is full of possibilities. We are more connected than ever, and that means collaborative problem solving is more possible than ever.
So that is why I am using some of our very precious start-up resources to send a team of Evelyn & Bobbie employees to the Women’s March in DC. When we talk to each other, we learn, we grow and we open up the possibilities. Whether we are talking about our bodies, our self perceptions, or the way institutionalized oppression has impacted women (especially women of color), we are stronger together.
Written by Bree McKeen | Founder & CEO